Journal Article — The Facticity of Blackness: A Non-conceptual Approach to the Study of Race and Racism in Fanon’s and Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenology — by Dilan Mahendran

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Abstract

This essay seeks to interrogate Frantz Fanon’s phenomenological descriptions of embodied experience of anti-black racism and his appropriation and critique of Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology of perception. I begin this essay by arguing for an embodied understanding of racism rather than the dominant intellectualist account of race which posits an objective racial knowing. Racial knowing privileges race as a discursive formation–as the only definitive and legitimate account of race and racism. An outcome of privileging of objective racial knowledge marginalizes subjective experience of race as always leaning towards an essentialist understanding. Since the linguistic turn in Continental and Anglo-American thought the move has been to disassociate power from the body but this has been only made possible by an Enlightenment universal humanism that indemnified European man’s humanity against all others. In a triple move the linguistic turn jettisons, takes for granted the human and with great hubris declares it non-operative. This European universal subject’s humanity is normatively guaranteed while those whose possibility of a subject position is not a given, those with black and brown bodies’, their humanity is dead on arrival. What is interesting is that for Frantz Fanon the body under racism poses a problem while for Merleau-Ponty the body is a solution to the existential crisis of Western man. For Merleau-Ponty to address the crisis, Western man must get back to the things themselves which is the already promised gift of the body in its primordial giveness. Fanon on the other hand sees that a radically new conception of the human is needed even to begin to address this crisis.

Recommended Citation

Mahendran, Dilan. 2007. “The Facticity of Blackness: A Non-conceptual Approach to the Study of Race and Racism in Fanon’s and Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenology.” Pp. 191-204 in Reflections on Fanon: The Violences of Colonialism and Racism, Inner and Global—Conversations with Frantz Fanon on the Meaning of Human Emancipation (Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge: Volume V, Special Issue, 2007.) Belmont, MA: Okcir Press (an imprint of Ahead Publishing House).

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